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Bruno Leopoldo Francesco Sammartino (October 6, 1935 – April 18, 2018) was an Italian-American
professional wrestler Professional wrestling is a form of entertainment and performing art, which combines athletics with performance. It comprises of exhibitions, called 'matches', held by touring companies called Professional wrestling promotion, promotions, in ...
, best known for his work with the
World Wide Wrestling Federation Capitol Wrestling Corporation Ltd. was an American sports promotion company. It was run by Vincent J. McMahon from 1953–1982. Operating as the Capitol Wrestling Corporation (CWC), the company was originally a professional wrestling Prof ...
(WWWF, now WWE). There, he held the
WWWF World Heavyweight Championship The WWE Championship is a world heavyweight championshipWorld heavyweight championship may refer to: * List of heavyweight boxing champions, World heavyweight boxing championship (professional) ** World Colored Heavyweight Championship (early t ...
(WWWF Heavyweight Championship during his second reign) for more than 11 years (4,040 days) across two reigns, the first of which is the longest single reign in the promotion's history at 2,803 days. He is overall a two-time
world champion A world championship is generally an international competition open to elite competitors from around the world, representing their nations, and winning such an event will be considered the highest or near highest achievement in the sport, game, o ...
in
professional wrestling Professional wrestling is a form of entertainment and performing art, which combines athletics with performance. It comprises of exhibitions, called 'matches', held by touring companies called Professional wrestling promotion, promotions, in ...
. Dubbed "The Italian Strongman" and "The Strongest Man in the World" early in his career, Sammartino later earned the title "The Living Legend". Known for his powerful
bearhug In wrestling, a bear hug, also known as a bodylock, is a grappling Grappling, in hand-to-hand combat, describes sports that consist of gripping or seizing the opponent. Grappling is used at close range to gain a physical advantage over an ...
finishing move, he is widely regarded as one of the greatest professional wrestlers of all time. Sammartino became a vocal critic of the drug use and raunchier storylines that became prevalent in the professional wrestling industry after his retirement but he reconciled with WWE in 2013 and headlined their Hall of Fame ceremony that year. Wrestler
Terry Funk Terrence Funk (born June 30, 1944) is an American retired professional wrestler Professional wrestling is a type of athletic exhibition and entertainment involving wrestling matches whose progress and outcome are planned in advance, typically b ...

Terry Funk
commented that Sammartino "was bigger than wrestling itself".


Early life

Bruno Leopoldo Francesco Sammartino was born in ,
Abruzzo Abruzzo (, , ; nap, label=Neapolitan language, Abruzzese Neapolitan, Abbrùzze , ''Abbrìzze'' or ''Abbrèzze'' ; nap, label=Sabino dialect, Aquilano, Abbrùzzu) or Abruzzi is a Regions of Italy, region of Southern Italy with an area of 10,763 ...

Abruzzo
, Italy, to Alfonso and Emilia Sammartino on October 6, 1935. He was the youngest of seven children, four of whom died during his early childhood. When he was four, his father emigrated to
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Pittsburgh ( ) is a city in the Commonwealth A commonwealth is a traditional English term for a political community founded for the common good In philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions ...

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
. During
World War II World War II or the Second World War, often abbreviated as WWII or WW2, was a global war A world war is "a war War is an intense armed conflict between states State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literatur ...
, his mother hid him and his siblings from German soldiers in a mountain called Valla Rocca. During this time, his mother would sneak into their German-occupied town for food and supplies. In 1950, she and the children joined her husband in Pittsburgh. When the Sammartinos arrived in the U.S., Bruno spoke no English and was sickly from the privations of the war years. This made him an easy target for bullies at
Schenley High School Schenley High School, located in the North Oakland (Pittsburgh), North Oakland neighborhood at the edge of the Hill District in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is a historic building opened in 1916 that was a part of the Pittsburgh Public Schools. The Sc ...
. He turned to weightlifting and wrestling to build himself up. His devotion to weightlifting nearly resulted in a berth on the 1956 U.S. Olympic team, which went instead to eventual gold medalist Paul Anderson. In 1959, Sammartino set a world record in the bench press with a lift of 565 pounds, done without elbow or wrist wraps. When he brought the bar down, he did not bounce it off his chest, but set it there for two seconds before attempting the press. He trained in wrestling with Rex Peery, the
University of Pittsburgh The University of Pittsburgh, familiarly known as Pitt, is a public In public relations Public relations (PR) is the practice of managing and disseminating information from an individual or an organization An organization, or ...
team coach. He also became known for performing strongman stunts in the Pittsburgh area, and sportscaster
Bob Prince Robert Ferris Prince (July 1, 1916 – June 10, 1985) was an American radio and television sportscaster and commentator, best known for his 28-year stint as the voice of the Pittsburgh Pirates The Pittsburgh Pirates are an American profession ...
put him on his television show. It was there that he was spotted by local
professional wrestling Professional wrestling is a form of entertainment and performing art, which combines athletics with performance. It comprises of exhibitions, called 'matches', held by touring companies called Professional wrestling promotion, promotions, in ...
promoter Rudy Miller, who recruited the young man into the ring.


Professional wrestling career


Early years (1959–1963)

Sammartino made his professional debut in Pittsburgh on December 17, 1959, pinning Dmitri Grabowski in 19 seconds. Sammartino's first match in
Madison Square Garden Madison Square Garden, colloquially known as The Garden or by its initials MSG, is a multi-purpose indoor arena in New York City New York, often called New York City to distinguish it from New York State New York is a state Stat ...
in
New York City New York, often called New York City to distinguish it from New York State New York is a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of ...

New York City
was on January 2, 1960, defeating
Bull Curry Fred Thomas Koury Sr. (May 2, 1913 – March 8, 1985) was an American of Lebanon, Lebanese descent who was best known as a Professional wrestling, professional wrestler under the name ”Wild Bull” Curry. He is recognized as the originator of th ...
in five minutes. Feeling like he was being held back in the New York territory in favor of
National Wrestling Alliance The National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) is an American professional wrestling promotion A professional wrestling promotion is a company A company, abbreviated as co., is a legal entity In law, a legal person is any person A person (p ...
(NWA) star Buddy Rogers, Sammartino gave his notice to
Capitol Wrestling Corporation Capitol Wrestling Corporation Ltd. was an American sports promotion company. It was run by Vincent J. McMahon from 1953–1982. Operating as the Capitol Wrestling Corporation (CWC), the company was originally a professional wrestling Prof ...
(CWC) owner Vince McMahon Sr. and planned to go to
San Francisco San Francisco (; Spanish Spanish may refer to: * Items from or related to Spain: **Spaniards, a nation and ethnic group indigenous to Spain **Spanish language **Spanish cuisine Other places * Spanish, Ontario, Canada * Spanish River (dis ...

San Francisco
to work for
Roy Shire Big Time Wrestling – also known as the American Wrestling Alliance (AWA) or National All-Star Wrestling – was a professional wrestling promotion A professional wrestling promotion (also federation or fed) is a company A company, abbreviated ...
. While on his way to California, he missed two bookings in Baltimore and Chicago, and as a result was suspended in those territories. California honored the other state's suspension, leaving Sammartino out of work. In his autobiography, Sammartino states that he believed McMahon set him up, by double-booking him and not informing him of his match in Baltimore, as a way of punishment. Sammartino was forced to return to Pittsburgh and found work as a laborer. On the advice of wrestler
Yukon Eric Eric Holmback (April 16, 1916 – January 16, 1965) was an American professional wrestler Professional wrestling is a form of entertainment and performing art, which combines athletics with performance. It comprises of exhibitions, calle ...
, Sammartino contacted
Toronto Toronto (, ) is the capital city of the Provinces and territories of Canada, Canadian province of Ontario. With a recorded population of 2,731,571 in 2016 in 2016, it is the List of the largest municipalities in Canada by population, most p ...

Toronto
promoter
Frank Tunney Francis Martin Tunney (November 12, 1912 - May 10, 1983) was a Canadian professional boxing Professional boxing, or prizefighting, is regulated, sanctioned boxing Boxing is a combat sport in which two people, usually wearing boxing glove, pro ...
hoping to take advantage of Toronto's large Italian population. Sammartino made his Toronto debut in March 1962 and very quickly, with the help of self-promotion in local newspapers and radio programs, became an attraction. His ability to speak Italian also ingratiated him with that immigrant population. With
Whipper Billy Watson William John Potts, (June 25, 1915 – February 4, 1990) was a Canadian Canadians (french: Canadiens) are people identified with the country of Canada Canada is a country in the northern part of North America. Its Provinces an ...
, Sammartino won his first
professional wrestling championship A championship or title in professional wrestling is a recognition promoted by Professional wrestling promotion, professional wrestling organizations. Championship reigns are determined by professional wrestling match types, professional wrestli ...
in September 1962, the local version of the International Tag Team Championship. Soon, he was in demand by other promoters in different Canadian territories. Sammartino also challenged
NWA World Heavyweight Champion The NWA Worlds Heavyweight Championship is a world heavyweight championshipWorld heavyweight championship may refer to: * List of heavyweight boxing champions, World heavyweight boxing championship (professional) ** World Colored Heavyweight Champ ...
Lou Thesz Aloysius Martin "Lou" Thesz (April 24, 1916 – April 28, 2002) was an American Professional wrestling, professional wrestler. He was a List of NWA World Heavyweight Champions, three-time NWA World Heavyweight Championship, NWA World Heavyweight ...
twice for the championship in Canada. One match ended in a
draw Draw, drawing, draws, or drawn may refer to: Common uses * Draw (terrain), a terrain feature formed by two parallel ridges or spurs with low ground in between them * Drawing (manufacturing), a process where metal, glass, or plastic or anything e ...

draw
and the other with Thesz scoring a fluke pin after a collision, despite Sammartino controlling the 20 minute match from the beginning. This match was by NWA promoter
Sam Muchnick Samuel Muchnick (born Jeshua Muchnick, August 22, 1905 – December 30, 1998) was an American professional wrestling Professional wrestling is a form of entertainment and performing art, which combines athletics with performance. It compri ...
as a preliminary to the forming of the WWWF, to ensure the dominance of the senior organization and its championship.


World Wide Wrestling Federation/World Wrestling Federation (1963–1981)


First World Heavyweight Championship reign (1963–1971)

After the first WWWF World Champion, Nature Boy Buddy Rogers, was hospitalized three times in April 1963 for chest pains, Vince McMahon, Sr. and
Toots Mondt Joseph Raymond "Toots" Mondt (January 18, 1894 – June 11, 1976) was an American professional wrestler Professional wrestling is a type of athletic exhibition and entertainment involving wrestling matches whose progress and outcome are planne ...
made a command decision to make an emergency title switch. Between Antonino Rocca and Bruno Sammartino they went with the younger Sammartino who was 28 years old at the time. The match was scheduled to be concluded quickly so as not to risk Buddy's health any further. Promoters Mondt and McMahon Sr. cleared up Sammartino's suspension by paying his $500 fine, allowing him to return to wrestling in the United States. Sammartino won the title on May 17, 1963, defeating Rogers in 48 seconds. Sammartino and Rogers faced each other two months later at Madison Square Garden in a tag team match, with Rogers and Handsome Johnny Barend defeating Sammartino and Bobo Brazil by 2 falls to 1. Rogers pinned Sammartino for the third and deciding fall. Rogers retired prior to their scheduled title rematch on October 4, 1963, in Jersey City, New Jersey's Roosevelt Stadium. Sammartino instead that night had his first match against new number one contender,
Gorilla Monsoon Robert James Marella (June 4, 1937 – October 6, 1999), better known by his ring name A ring name is a type of stage name used by an athlete such as a Professional wrestling, professional wrestler, Mixed martial arts, mixed martial artist, or ...
. Because Monsoon won the match by disqualification, thus Sammartino retained his belt. On December 8, 1969, he teamed with
Tony Marino Tony Silipini (April 20, 1931 – May 28, 2021) was an American Professional wrestling, professional wrestler, better known by his ring name, Tony Marino. Professional wrestling career Early career (1954-1963) Tony Silipini was born in 19 ...
to win the WWWF International Tag Team Championship by defeating The Rising Suns (
Tanaka is the fourth most common Japanese name, Japanese surname. It is typically written with the kanji for . Less common variants include , , , , and . Tanaka Help:IPA/English, (/tɑːnɑːkɑː/) is also a common unisex first name used in Zimbabwe a ...
and
Mitsu Arakawa Mack Mitsukazu Arakawa (May 23, 1927 – April 17, 1997) was an American professional wrestler Professional wrestling is a form of entertainment and performing art, which combines athletics with performance. It comprises of exhibitions, ca ...
). Company policy meant that Sammartino could not hold two championships simultaneously, so he was replaced by Victor Rivera. Sammartino held the WWWF World Heavyweight Championship for seven years, eight months, and one day (2,803 days). On January 18, 1971, Sammartino lost the championship at Madison Square Garden to
Ivan Koloff Ivan Koloff (born Oreal Donald Perras; August 25, 1942 – February 18, 2017) was a Canadian professional wrestler Professional wrestling is a type of athletic exhibition and entertainment involving wrestling matches whose progress and outcome ...

Ivan Koloff
. Sammartino recalled the shocked silence that greeted the result, remarking he thought he had damaged his ears. Later that year, he won the International Tag Team Championship for the second time by teaming with
Dominic DeNucci Domenico Nucciarone (January 23, 1932 – August 12, 2021) was an Italian-American Professional wrestling, professional wrestler and trainer better known under his ring name of Dominic DeNucci. He held over a dozen championships around the world ...
.


Second World Heavyweight Championship reign (1972–1977)

Later in 1972, Sammartino was asked back by McMahon Sr. to regain the title. After refusing McMahon Sr.'s initial offer, Sammartino was offered a percentage of all the gates when he wrestled and a decreased work schedule that only included major arenas. Soon after, Sammartino and then champion Pedro Morales teamed up for a series of tag team matches. In a televised match, Professor Tanaka blinded both men with salt and they were maneuvered into fighting each other. When their eyes cleared, they kept fighting each other. Two weeks later, all syndicated wrestling shows in the WWWF showed a clip of Sammartino and Morales signing a contract for a title match at
Shea Stadium Shea Stadium (; formally known as William A. Shea Municipal Stadium) was a multi-purpose stadium A stadium (plural stadiums or stadia) is a place or venue for (mostly) outdoor sports, concerts, or other events and consists of a field or s ...

Shea Stadium
. When McMahon Sr. gestured for them to shake hands, both wordlessly turned and walked away. On September 30, 1972, Sammartino and Morales wrestled to a 65-minute draw at Shea Stadium in New York. Eventually, on December 10, 1973, Sammartino regained the WWWF Heavyweight Championship by defeating
Stan Stasiak George Emile Stipich (April 13, 1937 – June 19, 1997) was a Canadian professional wrestler Professional wrestling is a type of athletic exhibition and entertainment involving wrestling matches whose progress and outcome are planned in advance ...
. During this time, on April 26, 1976, Sammartino suffered a legitimate neck fracture in a match against
Stan Hansen John Stanley Hansen II (born August 29, 1949) is an American retired professional wrestler Professional wrestling is a type of athletic exhibition and entertainment involving wrestling matches whose progress and outcome are planned in advance, ...
at Madison Square Garden, when Hansen improperly executed a move and dropped Sammartino on his head. After two months, Sammartino returned and faced Hansen in a rematch on June 25, 1976 at
Shea Stadium Shea Stadium (; formally known as William A. Shea Municipal Stadium) was a multi-purpose stadium A stadium (plural stadiums or stadia) is a place or venue for (mostly) outdoor sports, concerts, or other events and consists of a field or s ...
, which was on the closed circuit TV undercard of the
Ali Ali ibn Abi Talib ( ar, عَلِيّ ٱبْن أَبِي طَالِب, ; 13 September 601 – 29 January 661) was a cousin, son-in-law and companion of the Prophets and messengers in Islam, Islamic prophet Muhammad in Islam, Muhammad, who ru ...

Ali
vs.
Antonio Inoki Muhammad Hussain Inoki (born on February 20, 1943) is a Japanese retired professional wrestler, martial artist Martial arts are codified systems and traditions of combat practiced for a number of reasons such as self-defense; military and law e ...
match for WWWF cities. The match was rated 1976 "Match of the Year" by ''
Pro Wrestling Illustrated ''Pro Wrestling Illustrated'' (''PWI'') is an American internationally sold professional wrestling Professional wrestling is a form of entertainment and , which combines athletics with performance. It comprises of exhibitions, called 'ma ...
''. In early 1977, Sammartino informed McMahon Sr. that he felt he could no longer continue as champion due to his injuries. On April 30, 1977, he was defeated by Superstar Billy Graham for the title. His second title run lasted three years, four months, and twenty days (1,237 days). Despite a very long series of rematches against Graham, Sammartino was unable to regain the title. His final attempt was in Philadelphia, just a few days before Graham was scheduled to lose the title to
Bob Backlund Robert Louis Backlund (born August 14, 1949) is an American retired Professional wrestling, professional wrestler best known for his tenures in the WWE, where he is a two-time WWE Championship, WWE Champion and a member of the WWE Hall of Fame. B ...
.


Later career and initial retirement (1978–1981)

After his second reign ended, Sammartino leisurely toured the U.S. and the world. He wrestled then NWA World Heavyweight Champion
Harley Race Harley Leland Race (April 11, 1943 – August 1, 2019) was an American professional wrestler Professional wrestling is a type of athletic exhibition and entertainment involving wrestling matches whose progress and outcome are planned in advanc ...

Harley Race
to a one-hour draw in
St. Louis St. Louis () is the second-largest city in Missouri Missouri is a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State ( ...

St. Louis
. He also wrestled and defeated
Blackjack Mulligan Robert Deroy Windham (November 25, 1942 – April 7, 2016), better known by his ring name A ring name is a type of stage name used by an athlete such as a Professional wrestling, professional wrestler, Mixed martial arts, mixed martial artist, ...
, Alfred Hayes (wrestler), Lord Alfred Hayes, Dick Murdoch, Kenji Shibuya, and Ray Stevens (wrestler), "Crippler" Ray Stevens. Also during this time, Sammartino began serving as color commentator for the WWF's syndicated programs, ''WWF Championship Wrestling'' and ''WWF All-Star Wrestling''. On January 22, 1980, his former student Larry Zbyszko Glossary of professional wrestling terms#Turn, turned on him at the WWE#World Wrestling Federation, World Wrestling Federation's ''WWWF Championship Wrestling, Championship Wrestling'' show. Sammartino, shocked and hurt by Zbyszko's betrayal, vowed to make Zbyszko pay dearly. Their feud culminated on August 9, 1980, in front of 36,295 fans at Shea Stadium. As the main event of 1980's Showdown at Shea (1980), Showdown at Shea, Sammartino defeated Zbyszko inside a steel cage. In his autobiography, Hulk Hogan claimed that his match with André the Giant was the real reason for the huge draw at Shea Stadium; however, the Feud (professional wrestling), feud between Sammartino and Zbyszko sold out everywhere in the build-up to the show. In contrast, Hogan and André headlined exactly one card in White Plains, New York before they wrestled at Shea, and they drew 1,200 in a building that held 3,500. Sammartino retired from North American wrestling full-time in 1981, in a match that opened the Meadowlands Arena in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Sammartino pinned George "The Animal" Steele in his match. Sammartino then finished up his full-time career by touring Japan.


Return to WWF (1984–1988)

It was during this time Sammartino found out through Angelo Savoldi, a recently fired office employee of Capitol Wrestling Corporation, that he had been cheated by Vince McMahon Sr. on the promised gate percentages for his entire second title run. Sammartino filed suit against McMahon Sr. and his Capitol Wrestling Corporation. The suit was eventually settled out of court by McMahon Sr's son, Vince McMahon after his father had died, and included an agreement for Sammartino to return to the company as a commentator. At the inaugural WrestleMania I, WrestleMania on March 31, 1985, Sammartino was in his son David Sammartino, David's corner for his match against Brutus Beefcake. The match ended in a double-disqualification after the Sammartinos began brawling with Beefcake and his Manager (professional wrestling), manager Johnny Valiant. He returned to in-ring action soon after with his son, as they wrestled against Beefcake and Valiant at Madison Square Garden. The Sammartinos also teamed against "Mr. Wonderful" Paul Orndorff and Bobby Heenan, Bobby "The Brain" Heenan in various arenas. Sammartino's highest-profile feud during this run was with "Macho Man" Randy Savage. An irate Sammartino attacked Savage during a TV interview, after Savage bragged about injuring Ricky Steamboat, by driving the timekeeper's bell into Steamboat's throat during a televised match. Sammartino defeated Savage in a Professional wrestling match types#Lumberjack match, lumberjack match for the WWE Intercontinental Championship, WWF Intercontinental Heavyweight Championship via disqualification at the Boston Garden. This allowed Savage to keep the championship, as titles cannot change hands via countout or disqualification. He was often teamed with Tito Santana and his old enemy George "The Animal" Steele (who was a Face (professional wrestling), fan favorite at this point in his career) to wrestle Savage and Adrian Adonis, "Adorable" Adrian Adonis. The climax of their feud came was a victory for Sammartino and Santana in a steel cage match in Madison Square Garden. Sammartino also engaged in a feud with "Rowdy" Roddy Piper after Piper insulted his heritage on a segment of ''Piper's Pit'' at Madison Square Garden. Sammartino faced Piper in both singles and tag team matches. Sammartino teamed with Paul Orndorff in his matches against Piper, while Piper would tag with his "bodyguard", Bob Orton Jr., Ace "Cowboy" Bob Orton. Sammartino would eventually get the upper hand in the feud, by defeating Piper in a steel cage match at the Boston Garden. In 1986, Sammartino competed in a 20-man battle royal at WrestleMania 2 at the Rosemont Horizon in Chicago. Sammartino's final match was at a WWF house show in Baltimore on August 29, 1987, where he teamed up with Hulk Hogan to defeat King Kong Bundy and One Man Gang in the main event. Sammartino continued doing commentary on ''WWF Superstars of Wrestling, Superstars of Wrestling'' until March 1988.


Non-wrestling roles and WWE Hall of Fame (1988–2018)

After leaving the WWF, Sammartino became an outspoken critic of the path on which Vincent K. McMahon had taken professional wrestling. He particularly criticized the use of steroids and "vulgar" storylines. He appeared in the media in opposition to the WWE on such shows as ''The Phil Donahue Show'', ''Geraldo (TV series), Geraldo'' and CNN. Sammartino worked as a commentator for the Universal Wrestling Federation (Herb Abrams), Universal Wrestling Federation. On October 28, 1989, Sammartino made a special appearance at the NWA pay-per-view event Halloween Havoc (1989), Halloween Havoc, where he was the Referee (professional wrestling)#Special referees, special guest referee in a "Professional wrestling match types#Thundercage, Thunderdome" cage match which featured Ric Flair and Sting (wrestler), Sting taking on
Terry Funk Terrence Funk (born June 30, 1944) is an American retired professional wrestler Professional wrestling is a type of athletic exhibition and entertainment involving wrestling matches whose progress and outcome are planned in advance, typically b ...

Terry Funk
and Keiji Mutoh, The Great Muta. Sammartino worked several WCW events in a minor analysis role in the early 1990s, as well as a brief run doing color commentary with Jim Ross on ''WCW Saturday Night, Saturday Night'' in 1992. He also acted as special guest referee in World Championship Wrestling (WCW) for a series of matches between Flair and Randy Savage in June 1996. In 2006, he signed an independent deal with Jakks Pacific to produce an action figure, which is part of the WWE Classic Superstars line, Series 10. On March 25, 2010, Sammartino was honored at the 74th annual Dapper Dan Dinner, a popular awards and charity fundraising event in Pittsburgh, with a lifetime achievement award, for which fellow former ''Studio Wrestling'' personalities Bill Cardille, Johnny De Fazio, "Jumping" Johnny De Fazio,
Dominic DeNucci Domenico Nucciarone (January 23, 1932 – August 12, 2021) was an Italian-American Professional wrestling, professional wrestler and trainer better known under his ring name of Dominic DeNucci. He held over a dozen championships around the world ...
, Frank Durso, and Referee (professional wrestling), referee Andy DePaul, Andy "Kid" DePaul were all present. In 2013, Sammartino accepted an invitation for induction into the WWE Hall of Fame, after having declined several times in prior years. He finally accepted the offer to join because he was satisfied with the way the company had addressed his concerns about anabolic steroid, rampant drug use as well as vulgarity. The ceremony took place at Madison Square Garden on April 6, 2013, and Sammartino was inducted by Arnold Schwarzenegger. Sammartino appeared on the October 7, 2013, episode of ''WWE Raw, Raw'' and received a birthday greeting in his hometown of Pittsburgh. On March 28, 2015, Sammartino inducted Larry Zbyszko into the WWE Hall of Fame.


Other media

Sammartino is included in two DVDs summarizing his career and life: ''Bruno Returns to Italy With Bruno Sammartino'' (2006) and ''Bruno Sammartino: Behind the Championship Belt'' (2006). Both were only released in Pittsburgh. Sammartino is honored on the Madison Square Garden Walk of Fame. Sammartino appeared in the ''WWE 2K14'' video game as a Downloadable content, downloadable character.


Personal life

Sammartino was married to his wife Carol from 1959 until his death in 2018. They had three sons together, David Sammartino, David and fraternal twins Danny and Darryl. They were grandparents of four grandchildren. The Sammartinos lived in Ross Township, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania near Pittsburgh from 1965 on. In 1998, he said he had been estranged from David since retiring from wrestling against David's wishes for a tag team. On April 6, 2013, Sammartino received the Key to the City in Jersey City, New Jersey. May 17, 2013 was declared "Bruno Sammartino Day" in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. In 2013, Sammartino appeared as one of the Board of Governors in the nationally televised Columbus Day, 69th Annual Columbus Day Parade.


Backstage incidents

In the late 1960s, Sammartino was involved in a fight with former Pennsylvania Athletic Commissioner Joe Cimino. Cimino was new to his post and intervened in a match finish involving Sammartino, who took a shot at Cimino in the ring and the argument continued backstage. Sammartino ended up in a screaming match with Cimino on Pittsburgh's local ''Studio Wrestling'' program, and Cimino suspended him for a month. Irvin Muchnick mentioned the incident in his book, ''Wrestling Babylon''. In his autobiography, ''The Cowboy and the Cross: The Bill Watts Story: Rebellion, Wrestling and Redemption'', Bill Watts told of witnessing a backstage incident between Sammartino and Gorilla Monsoon. Watts wrote that Monsoon "soon found himself in deep water" when messing with Sammartino, and he did not go into further detail on the incident out of respect for Monsoon. On July 26, 2004, Sammartino and Ric Flair were involved in the "Who snubbed who?" non-confrontation at the Mellon Arena in Pittsburgh. Flair had denigrated Sammartino's wrestling ability in his book ''To Be the Man''. Flair said Sammartino refused to shake his hand at the event, while Sammartino said Flair saw him coming down the hall, turned, and rushed away.


Death

Sammartino underwent heart surgery in 2011. He died on April 18, 2018, at the age of 82 from multiple organ failure due to heart problems following a two-month hospitalization. WWE honored his life with a ten-bell salute before a house show in Cape Town later that day, and again on the April 23 episode of ''Raw'' in St. Louis. Mayor Bill Peduto remembered him as "one of the greatest ambassadors the city of Pittsburgh ever had."


Championships and accomplishments

* George Tragos/Lou Thesz Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame ** Class of 2019 *International Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame **Class of 2021 * Keystone State Wrestling Alliance ** KSWA Hall of Fame (Class of 2012) * Maple Leaf Wrestling ** NWA International Tag Team Championship (Toronto version), NWA International Tag Team Championship ''(Toronto version)'' (NWA International Tag Team Championship (Toronto version)#Title history, 1 time) – with
Whipper Billy Watson William John Potts, (June 25, 1915 – February 4, 1990) was a Canadian Canadians (french: Canadiens) are people identified with the country of Canada Canada is a country in the northern part of North America. Its Provinces an ...
** NWA United States Heavyweight Championship (Toronto version), NWA United States Heavyweight Championship ''(Toronto version)'' (NWA United States Heavyweight Championship (Toronto version)#Title history, 1 time) * National Wrestling Alliance, NWA Hollywood ** Los Angeles Battle Royal (1972) * ''
Pro Wrestling Illustrated ''Pro Wrestling Illustrated'' (''PWI'') is an American internationally sold professional wrestling Professional wrestling is a form of entertainment and , which combines athletics with performance. It comprises of exhibitions, called 'ma ...
'' ** List of Pro Wrestling Illustrated awards#Inspirational Wrestler of the Year, Inspirational Wrestler of the Year (1976) ** List of Pro Wrestling Illustrated awards#Match of the Year, Match of the Year (1972) ** Match of the Year (1975) ** Match of the Year (1976) ** Match of the Year (1977) ** Match of the Year (1980) ** List of Pro Wrestling Illustrated awards#Stanley Weston Award (Lifetime Achievement), Stanley Weston Award (1981) ** List of Pro Wrestling Illustrated awards#Wrestler of the Year, Wrestler of the Year (1974) ** Ranked No. 200 of the top 500 singles wrestlers of the "PWI Years" in 2003 * Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum ** Class of 2002 * World Wide Wrestling Alliance ** Hall of Fame (Class of 2008) * WWE, World Wide Wrestling Federation/WWE ** WWWF International Tag Team Championship (WWWF International Tag Team Championship#Title history, 2 times) – with
Dominic DeNucci Domenico Nucciarone (January 23, 1932 – August 12, 2021) was an Italian-American Professional wrestling, professional wrestler and trainer better known under his ring name of Dominic DeNucci. He held over a dozen championships around the world ...
(1) and
Tony Marino Tony Silipini (April 20, 1931 – May 28, 2021) was an American Professional wrestling, professional wrestler, better known by his ring name, Tony Marino. Professional wrestling career Early career (1954-1963) Tony Silipini was born in 19 ...
(1) ** WWWF United States Tag Team Championship (WWWF United States Tag Team Championship#Title history, 1 time) – with Spiros Arion ** WWE Championship, WWWF World Heavyweight Championship/WWWF Heavyweight Championship (List of WWE Champions, 2 times) ** WWE Hall of Fame (WWE Hall of Fame (2013), Class of 2013) ** WrestleMania Axxess#WWE Bronze Statues, WWE Bronze Statue (2014) * World Wrestling Association (Indianapolis) ** WWA World Tag Team Championship (WWA World Tag Team Championship#Title history, 1 time) – with Dick the Bruiser * World Wrestling Council ** WWC North American Heavyweight Championship (WWC North American Heavyweight Championship#titlehistory, 1 time) * ''Wrestling Observer Newsletter'' ** List of Wrestling Observer Newsletter awards#Feud of The Year, Feud of the Year (1980) ** Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame (Class of 1996)


Notes


References


External links

* * * * {{DEFAULTSORT:Sammartino, Bruno 1935 births 2018 deaths American male professional wrestlers American people of Italian descent American professional wrestlers of Italian descent Deaths from multiple organ failure Italian emigrants to the United States Italian male professional wrestlers People from the Province of Chieti Professional wrestling announcers Professional wrestlers from Pennsylvania Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum Professional wrestling trainers Schenley High School alumni Sportspeople from Pittsburgh WWE Hall of Fame inductees WWE Champions Stampede Wrestling alumni